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-THE RELUCTANT MISSIONARY-
Jonah's prophetic ministry was in the Northern Kingdom in the eighth century before the appearance of Christ. He lived in a town called Gath Hepher, near Nazareth. Many Jewish teachers believe he is the son of the widow whom Elijah brought back to life, but no one knows for sure. He was known as a disciple of Elisha and was the prophet to succeed him.
Jonah did enjoy popular respect as a true prophet in the Kingdom during a time of prosperity and fortune. He ministered to the Royal Court and preached to Northern Israel of God's favour to them.
Jonah was also famous as a statesman and helped Northern Israel to become successful and powerful with his skillsand abilities. A jealous complacency of their status grew among those living in the Northern Kingdom.
In the time during his pastoral care serving God, Jonah was a prophet to the ten tribes of Northern Israel, but is not remembered for his ministry in Israel, as much as he is for being disobedient to God's calling.
God gave Jonah a commission. God was very definite that Jonah was to go to the pagan city of Nineveh to warn them of His impending judgement, and to give a call for repentance because of the people's wickedness.
Nineveh was situated on the east bank of the Tigris River (present day Iraq) and was the capital city of the pagan Assyrian Empire, Israel's most troublesome enemy, and Jonah was an obstinate prophet.
Jonah was afraid that if the people repented God might spare the hated opponent of Israel.
Jonah intended to escape his divinely appointed task, but as soon as Jonah fled on a ship across the Mediterrain Sea headed for Spain, in the exact opposite direction to Nineveh, God caused a great wind and tempest in the sea. God supernaturally intervened about Jonah's decision.
All aboard the ship feared for their lives because of the storm. Jonah acknowledged he was guilty of trying to run away from God, and permitted the sailors who had tried against the wind to put him ashore, to cast him into the sea, for it was his fault that the squall threatened other lives at sea. Jonah was prepared to die for their safety. The gale-tossed sea was calmed immediately. This astonished the pagan sailors and they immediately worshipped God as the Creator.
God had prepared a fish to swallow Jonah, which caught his attention. Jonah submitted to God, he gave thanks to God, he prayed of God's mercy and salvation. He admitted to God that he could do nothing himself and that salvation is of The Lord. God forgave Jonah for being disobedient and gave Jonah another chance for serving Him. After 3 days and 3 nights the huge fish vomited him onto the beach, ready to set out for Nineveh and obey God's original command.
Jonah did not find it easy to walk through the streets of Nineveh warning that the city would be overthrown in forty days. Jonah had no mercy for the inhabitants, he wanted them all to perish. Jonah was obeying God, but his heart was insincere.
The King, the noblemen and the common people repented. It was a wonder for Jonah to see this great gentile city turn from their self- indulgence to fast and pray to God in reponse to the caution that Jonah had given them.
Jonah sulked as he waited to see what God would do. Because of the repentance, the judgement was withdrawn. Jonah became angry and complained to God for he had no compassion on Israel's enemy.
Through stubborn Jonah, God was able to show the extent of His Grace. God rebuked Jonah for his hardness, but continued to showed great love toward His servant.
Jonah thought God should destroy the people in the city of Nineveh. Even though rebellious Jonah had been forgiven, to him he thought it wasn't fair. He failed to see that if evil in people was not graciously forgiven by God, everyone would be destroyed. He did not acknowledge His own deliverance in compassion with the citizens of Nineveh.
Jonah having prophesied an event which did not take place was to suffer extremely as a 'false' prophet. He would rather have seen the people destroyed than to be embarrassed because God had shown mercy.
Jonah's view of God was
restricted and too limited, even though he knew
God was The Creator of everything.
God created a gourd vine to protect and give shade to Jonah, but Jonah was more prying about a plant which is less important than an animal, and was not interested in the fact that God would take pity on human beings that were made in His image. Israel was unwilling to see God's mercy extend beyond their own boundries.
Jonah was a prototype of Israel, the nation. Jonah was called to a world mission, so was Israel. Jonah refused to obey God, so did Israel. Jonah was punished and thrown into the sea. Israel was punished by being scattered among the nations. Jonah was preserved, so was Israel. Jonah repented, Israel will be restored.
Jonah was a type of Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection. Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights inside the fish. Jesus brought attention to Jonah as refering to the only sign to be given from God to the Jewish Teachers of God's Word.
The story of Jonah is historical and the real events in the prophet's life are timeless lessons of his disobedience to God. Jonah wrote about his adventure himself and recorded how God's compassion reaches beyond Israel the nation, to all peoples of the earth. Jonah, a reluctant foreign prophet saw God's Sovereignty in ten separate miracles.
Jonah knew that only true repentance can bring salvation. Even though Jonah is considered as a minor prophet, he had a major message. Salvation comes only from the Lord, and is by Grace and not by works; it is received by faith.
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Managed by Stefan Kreslin, Last updated 21 October 1998